On Sunday, July 8, the Blue Jays will finish their short three-game set against the New York Yankees. The game will feature a battle of the rookie starters, Domingo German against Ryan Borucki.
Domingo German, despite maintaining his rookie status, is a year younger than Saturday’s starter, Luis Severino. Sunday’s starter stagnated his development after he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery three years ago. The season he missed was actually his first as a Yankees prospect after he was acquired in a five-player deal with the Miami Marlins.
The right-hander was included in a package with Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Jones. The Marlins received Martin Prado and David Phelps in return. Amazingly, not one, not two, but three players involved in this trade underwent Tommy John surgery afterward. David Phelps, Nathan Eovaldi, and the aforementioned German went under the knife in 2017, 2016, and 2015, respectively.
Tommy John surgery used to be a career-ending surgery for a pitcher, but now it feels like more a right-of-passage. In the past six games, the Blue Jays have opposed two pitchers who endured the surgery. If this isn’t a red flag in the current theory of development and workload of pitchers, I’m not sure what is.
The right-handed hurler pitched quite well in his starting audition with the Yankees. The young starter shut out Cleveland over six innings. As well, he struck out nine batters, while using just 84 pitches to do so. However, he followed this great start with back-to-back outings of six earned runs.
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Overall, the Yankees starter has been somewhat disappointing. German has posted a 5.37 ERA, 4.44 FIP, 1.267 WHIP, and 79 ERA+ over 16 games and 10 starts. Also, he has been worth just 0.6 fWAR. He may go back to the bullpen if the Bronx bombers acquire a starter at the deadline.
The righty utilizes a good mix of pitches for a young pitcher, alternating between a curveball, four-seam fastball, sinker, and change-up.
German is a student of the Yankees new pitching philosophy, apparently, as he has thrown curves 37.3% of the time this season. New York has started teaching starters to throw breaking balls more, as hitters are prepared to hit fastballs. The breaking ball breaks mostly 12-6, with some slight arm sidecut. As well, it has been quite effective, posting a .189 BAA and .340 SLGA. Even more impressive, the pitch has produced 49 strikeouts in just 68 2/3 innings. For reference, that equates to a 6.46 K/9.
The right-handed hurler has straightened batters up with a four-seam fastball 27.4% of the time this season. The heater is fast, averaging a velocity of 95.29 mph. With the pitcher’s low arm-slot, the fastball can sometimes appear to rise approaching the plate. The four-seamer has been hit hard, though, allowing five home runs and a poor .565 SLGA.
German has changed speeds on batters 18.3% of the time this season. The change averages a decently quick velocity of 88.2 mph, with good arm side sink. Despite the good velocity and movement, the pitch has been terrible, allowing a .300 BAA and .540 SLGA.
The rookie completes his pitching repertoire with a sinker, a pitch he throws 16.8% of the time. The sinking fastball is actually faster than the four-seam fastball, maintaining a velocity of 95.44 mph. The sinker has done its job, producing ground balls on 57.58% of balls in play. However, many of these worm burners have found holes, as the pitch has allowed a mediocre .277 BAA.
The Yankees starter is already a good strikeout pitcher. Through ten starts he has produced a good 27.5% K-rate and 10.62 K/9. However, much like Severino, he has struggled with the base on balls, allowing an 8.1% BB-rate and 3.15 BB/9.
The Blue Jays have hit against German once this year—when he was a bullpen arm. The Jays managed two hits, four walks, and two earned runs over an inning and two-thirds. The Bluebirds went on to win that game by a score of 8-5.
The Blue Jays have incredibly limited experience against the righty—only Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Kendrys Morales have hits against the rookie. However, Teoscar Hernandez (two), Aledmys Diaz, and Russell Martin have worked walks.
The Blue Jays will look to rough up the young starter for the second time this season. As well, Ryan Borucki will be tasked with another tough match-up. Introducing a young pitcher to the majors with starts against the Astros and Yankees in two-out-of-three starts is the same as teaching a kid to swim by throwing them in the deep end.